India: Journalist Must be Protected from Further Harassment
This statement originally appeared on PEN International’s website.
The recent harassment of Chhattisgarh-based journalist, Malini Subramaniam is a deeply worrying development for freedom of expression in India, PEN International said today, as it called on the Indian authorities to do all in their power to bring those responsible to justice and protect journalists in the state.
Subramaniam was the victim of two attacks on the evening of February 7, 2016. According to Scroll.in, a group of some 20 people surrounded her home in Jagdalpur, shouting slogans and death threats. The mob are also reported to have told her neighbors that they believe her to be a supporter of Maoist groups and encouraged them to throw stones at her home. In the early hours of the following morning, unknown assailants threw stones at her home, breaking the windows of her car.
“Malini Subramaniam is a courageous reporter who is operating in extremely difficult circumstances. She is doing her job – of investigating atrocities and highlighting state failure. For this, vigilantes are intimidating her and the state response in protecting her rights has been lethargic,” said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
“The authorities must take immediate steps so that Malini can live and work without fear, and address the issues her reporting has identified by prosecuting the perpetrators, to ensure that the rights of everyone are respected.”
According to reports, Subramaniam was able to identify two of the assailants as members of the Samajik Ekta Manch – a Jagdalpur-based forum formed to counter Naxalism (support for Maoist groups) in Bastar – who had visited her home in January 2016 and had questioned her about her work in a threatening manner.
Subramaniam’s written complaint was filed with police on February 8, although they did not file a First Information Report (FIR), (a necessary stage in the judicial process and required to be registered by a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court) until February 10, after protests from women’s and media organizations.
PEN International calls on the Chhattisgarh authorities to do all in their power to ensure the safety of Subramaniam and all other journalists in the state, to ensure that all reports of attacks against journalists are fully and swiftly investigated and anyone found responsible for abuses is brought to justice.
Subramaniam is a regular contributor to the independent, online news website Scroll.in. Between October 2015 and January 2016 she reported on the alleged torture of journalists, allegations of sexual violence committed by the security forces in Bijapur, and on alleged human trafficking in Bastar.
According to news reports, Subramaniam has been the victim of harassment on the part of the local police who, since January 2016, have made several visits to her home to question her about the nature of her work. Scroll.in wrote to the police to protest about at least one of the visits.
Subramaniam’s home, Jagdalpur, is the administrative headquarters of the southern Bastar district in Chhattisgarh province. Bastar, along with the districts of Bijapur, Sukma and Dantewada lie in the heart of the Maoist rebellion.
Following two demonstrations by journalists in Bastar in October and December 2015 in protest at police harassment, the Chief Minister of the state reportedly announced the establishment of a committee of editors to act as a mediator between journalists and police. This committee has yet to be formed.
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